Duplin’s Davis Did Not Let Hurricane Blow Away Her Educational Dreams
WILMINGTON- Tara Davis of Wallace, NC has learned a lot about persistence throughout her time at the University of Mount Olive (UMO). A wife and mother of two, Davis works full time and has taken classes at UMO’s Mount Olive and Wilmington education service centers in order to complete her degree a semester early. But, her journey has not been without challenges.
After high school, Davis worked in patient services at a doctor’s office. However, she always held on to the dream of working in education. “Growing up, I wanted to be a teacher,” she said. “I would bring home old notebooks and play school with my dolls.”
After a seven-year stint working with the doctor’s office, Davis accepted a job at Wallace Elementary School as a Personalized Education Plan (PEP) specialist. It was the motivation she needed to further her own education. Davis enrolled at Sampson Community College, earned an associate’s degree in early childhood education, and became a teacher’s assistant at Wallace Elementary. The more she worked with students, the stronger her desire became to become a lead teacher. “I love children,” Davis said. “I love that as a teacher, you get to impact their lives. Watching them grow is so exciting.”
Checking into all of her available options, Davis found the best fit for her educational needs at UMO. She enrolled in the fall of 2016 at the age of 31. It took better-than-average time management skills and a great deal of determination, but Davis managed to successfully juggle work, family life, social activities, church, school, and homework. Then Hurricane Florence hit in September of 2018 and flooded her home. The upheaval of being displaced and not having a consistent internet connection left Davis pondering her options.
“It was a really low point for me,” Davis admitted. “I was driving to the UMO Mount Olive location on Tuesdays and to the Wilmington location on Thursdays. The road situation was iffy at best, and it was hard to figure out how to get schoolwork done. I seriously thought about quitting, or at least taking a semester off.”
With the encouragement from her professors and her family, Davis chose to stick it out. “That time in my life was hard, but I’m glad I did not quit,” she said. “My husband, Jason, was so supportive. He kept the kids occupied so I could do schoolwork, and he even helped with the housework. My mom was also a Godsend, keeping the kids when Jason had to travel for his job and I had to go to school.”
As well as the support from her family, Davis has relied on her faith to get her through life’s battles. She posts Bible scriptures on her computer screen, and often uses the 45-minute drive to UMO to pray. “I tell myself that God has gotten me this far, He can get me to the finish line,” she said. “There is a reason why it has taken me this long to finally reach my educational goals, but God’s timing has been perfect for me. I truly believe God has a different path for everyone, and we just have to have faith in it. As an adult, I appreciate and value my education so much more than I ever would have coming straight out of high school. I guess maturity comes with age.”
Davis can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel as she finishes her education at UMO. “I would encourage anyone who is thinking of returning to school to believe in themselves and do it. You’re never too old to go to school. It doesn’t matter if you graduate when you’re 21 or 65; it’s still special. And you can do it.”
Davis will graduate on May 4th with a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education. “I’ll probably cry when I walk across the stage,” she said. “I’m glad that my kids get to see me do this. They are really excited to see me graduate.” After graduating, Davis plans to become a lead teacher at Wallace Elementary.
Davis and her husband, Jason, are the parents of Jacob (11) and Lydia (6).
The University of Mount Olive is a private institution rooted in the liberal arts tradition with defining Christian values. The University, sponsored by the Convention of Original Free Will Baptists, has locations in Mount Olive, New Bern, Wilmington, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, Research Triangle Park, Washington, Jacksonville, in Smithfield at Johnston Community College, and online. For more information, visitwww.umo.edu.